TV6 Investigates opioid settlement payments: Michigan gets $1.5B from settled lawsuits

All counties in Upper Michigan are getting a share of this money over the coming years.
All counties in Upper Michigan are getting a share of these settlement payments from opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 5:55 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

(WLUC) - About $1.5 billion will go to the State of Michigan to fight the opioid crisis.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and communities across the state won this settlement money from opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

Jared Welehodsky is a state assistant administrator for the Michigan office of the chief medical executive. Welehodsky said this money is being split 50-50 between the state and local governments.

“This means all counties and any city or township with a population of more than 10,000 are eligible for their own individual payments,” Welehodsky explained.

Communities get paid directly from the companies that settled the lawsuits. These include pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and drug distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen.

Welehodsky noted that the state will spend its settlement money on opioid use prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery. Welehodsky added that there have been thousands of overdose reversals across the State of Michigan since opening a naloxone portal in 2018.

“Our statewide portal for people and community organizations has more than 6,600 reported overdose reversals from naloxone ordered through this portal,” Welehodsky said.

Welehodsky added that the state is also, “working on improving transportation services to people that have a substance use disorder to be able to receive services and the state has upcoming requests for proposals for recovery housing.”

Welehodsky noted that all communities getting payments are only able to spend their share of the money to combat the opioid crisis. These criteria are outlined in a document called Exhibit E.

Some Upper Michigan counties have already spent some of this money, while others are working on a plan.

Marquette County Health Department Health Officer Jerry Messana explained Marquette County has already gotten $340,000 of the more than $3.3 million it will get over the next 20 years. Messana added that the county plans to spend about $100,000 in settlement money in 2024.

“My feeling is this is money for 18-20 years and if you keep at it and keep talking about prevention and risks, eventually you hopefully will make an impact,” Messana said.

Messana noted that the county’s settlement money spending plan has not yet been approved, but the Marquette County Health Department is discussing ways the county could spend it.

“This includes education and prevention programs in high schools to create a fatality review committee,” Messana explained.

Messana added that the programs are, “based on prevention,” and that a prevention program is, “just one of maybe a couple of different programs that are going to be considered.”

Messana said Marquette County wants to finalize its plan by Jan. 1.

Messana added that Marquette County already has substance abuse prevention programs in many of its middle schools and wants to use the settlement money to expand them into high schools.

Messana explained that Marquette County also already has other programs catered to people suffering from opioid addiction.

“We have a pretty robust harm reduction program to try to identify people that are using and get them into treatment or at least refer them to treatment or help reduce the risks,” Messana said.

Menominee County Administrator Jason Carviou said his county is getting more than $500,000 over the next 18 years.

Carviou explained how Menominee County wants to spend that money.

“We want to try to focus on programs or services that can stop opioid addiction upstream before people get to the point where they are going through the court system and they need intervention there or they need inpatient or outpatient treatment or services,” Carviou said.

Carviou added that Menominee County does not currently have many services specifically to prevent opioid overdose deaths.

“This money will allow us to hopefully expand, whether it’s the internal services that we provide through the courts or through law enforcement, the sheriff’s department, or if it’s contracting with a third party to provide some kind of inpatient and outpatient services,” Carviou noted.

Carviou said before anything is finalized, the Menominee County Board of Commissioners plans to gather a group of experts to come up with a spending plan.

Gogebic County Sheriff Ross Solberg said Gogebic County will get more than $400,000 over the next 15 years.

So far, Solberg said this funding has let Gogebic County work with Wayne State University to start a medical-assisted treatment program in the Gogebic County Jail.

“It screens individuals on intake when they get arrested,” Solberg started.

Solberg continued, “If they meet the criteria, they get entered into our MAT program. The MAT program is a combination of medication, counseling and reintegration back into the community to help these individuals suffering from opioid syndrome.”

Part of the funding lets the Gogebic County Jail give inmates who are addicted to opioids, alcohol or other drugs the medication they need. Solberg added that the funding also helps the jail staff extra nurses there when necessary.

Solberg said the goal is to get people sober from opioids before they are released from jail.

“We have, in my opinion, a good recovery coach who comes into our jail and meets with these individuals,” Solberg said.

Solberg added, “She provides counseling, and she also helps them reintegrate back into the community which is a program we didn’t have before.”

According to Solberg, Gogebic County already has a drug court. This gives extended probationary periods to people who qualify, which lets them ween off opioids, alcohol and other drugs.

“If you’re successful at certain portions of the program, you’re able to get a driver’s license back, go to work and participate in different programs,” Solberg explained.

Solberg added that police officers in Gogebic County now carry Narcan, which has helped stop overdose deaths on scene.

Solberg said Gogebic County will also give free Narcan to anyone who wants it. Those interested can also order Narcan from the State of Michigan website by clicking here.

For a full list of how much settlement money each county in Michigan is getting, which companies will be paying settlement money and how much, click here.

For more on the history of these opioid settlement payments, click here.